Saturday, 6 February 2010

Are cat owners smarter than dog owners?

Just did a jolly little radio interview with Radio 4's PM programme about whether dog or cat owners are the more intelligent. (click here for the link - it was pretty much the last item nearly 25 mins in) The pro-cat person up against me was the lovely Jilly Cooper who definitely swings both ways and loves dogs just as much, so it was a very positive discussion.
But the research that the unflattering qualifications statistic came from had caught my eye for very different reasons - it was published in this week's Vet Record.
The guys at Bristol University reckon we've been hugely under-estimating the numbers of dogs and cats.
The Bristol study puts it at approx 10.3 million cats and approx 10.5 million dogs. That's 57% more than the previously quoted 6 million dogs!
So how did they do their research?
They telephoned nearly 3,000 or so people randomly and asked them lots of questions. Then they applied the information they gleaned to the population to come up with the national estimate for ownership.
Apparently this seemingly quite small sample is still a lot more statistically significant than the way the Pet Food Manufacturers Association came up with their  previous 6 million guesstimate!
Some more stats:
  • 26% of homes have cats
  • 31% of homes have dogs
People with degrees are more likely to have cats than dogs but the person with the highest qualifications in the poll had both. 7% of people surveyed had a dog and a cat.
Cat owners:
  • 58.3% had one cat
  • 29.3% had two cats
  • 7.2% had three cats
  • 2.1% had four cats
  • 1.6% had between six and 12 cats.
Dog owners:
  • 73.3% had one dog
  • 18.9% had two dogs
  • 4% had three dogs
  • 1.9% had four dogs
  • 1% had five dogs
  • 1% had between 6 and 17 dogs.
By comparison with other surveys it suggests that pet ownership per head of population is higher in the UK than the USA.
So are dog owners less intelligent than cat owners?
As I said on the radio, dog ownership spans such a huge variety of people from the homeless man to the multimillionaire - with nearly a third of the population living with a dog, how can we make these assumptions from such a small sample. Other surveys showed that as many as 80% of people actively like dogs compared to just 40% liking cats - might it just be that people with cats are just waiting for their lives to become  a little less hectic until they can acquire a dog? Could it also just be that intelligent dog owners are ex-directory or were far too busy out walking their dogs when the researchers phoned?
Every dog thinks their owners are the most intelligent people in the world, in any case (and the most beautiful, heroic etc etc) - and dogs are much more intelligent than cats in any case! (meow!)


Anonymous said...

Whenever I hear on the radio/tv news 'reasearchers have discovered' I hold my breath and wait to either curse or laugh. And here's another one.

Also don't like the limitations of being either a cat person or a dog person. I waited many many years before I was able to have a dog of my own and that was because of circumstance. The experience has not dissapointed expectations. In the meantime and still I have had cats. There again I've also had house rabbits and rats as pets. The only thing limiting me to three feline and two canine is money and circumstance.

Crazy Dog Blog said...

I think that's just because University graduates are more likely to have higher jobs with longer hours and so have less time for a dog. Cats, whilst still sociable, are more easily left alone whilst you work a 9-5 (possibly more) job.

I'm a student at St Andrews and I have 2 dogs and no cats! 2 house-rabbits too but the study didn't compare them.

MBNAD woman said...

I've just stumbled on your blog ... I'm definitely not as smart as the collie who lives with me!

Mad x

Anonymous said...

I have a Master's degree, and I have much time just to do anything because I'm a housewife and not working, but I still prefer to have cats than dogs. They are such intriguing personalities and never cease to amaze me. Dogs, despite their good points, are just too simple-minded for me.

Anonymous said...

OH, so the comments are being moderated? I believe you will be fair and will publish my pro-cat comment. Thank you.